"Just practice what you preach and don’t come here. It’s ridiculous. It’s so selfish of this person to do this," said Sheriff A.J. Smith.
A Georgia senator who had tested positive for coronavirus a little more than a week ago left St. George Island Wednesday amid a backlash from locals about not quarantining in his home state.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office stationed a deputy to monitor Sen. Bruce Thompson’s vacation house in the St. George Plantation after the Republican arrived at his beach house on the island late Tuesday night in a caravan of three cars.
“As a result of surveillance on Senator Bruce Thompson’s residence on St. George Island, Senator Thompson called Sheriff A.J. Smith to advise he would return to Georgia,” FCSO wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Smith criticized Thompson’s arrival in one of only a dozen or so counties in Florida without a confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus.
Smith said he spoke with Thompson Tuesday night and was told he had a clean bill of health after being released from the hospital in Georgia. But the phone call was cut short and never continued.
"We're scared. A lot of people in the community are sacrificing now and are out of jobs and not working. It’s a very critical time for us and a very scary time for us," Smith said. "We were asking people not to come here so I don’t really understand why he chose this time to come."
News that Thompson, a Republican representing White, Georgia, visited the island after he was confirmed as a carrier of the deadly virus came the day after Smith warned vacationers to reconsider coming to the coast.
Smith said Thompson has been using social media to encourage people to practice distancing and stay home but finds it OK to travel to Florida.
"He’s got #stayhome on his Facebook page and he’s down here in Florida in a county that has no cases and he tested positive," Smith said in an interview. "His driver’s license is in Georgia. His voter’s registration is in Georgia, so just practice what you preach and don’t come here. It’s ridiculous. It’s so selfish of this person to do this."
The Tallahassee Democrat reached out to Thompson's legislative office for comment but did not receive a call back. The senator owns a house in St. George Plantation, a gated community on the western end of the island.
While deputies are applying a zero-tolerance policy to arrest anyone on the closed beaches, Smith’s message to vacationers was clear: “Do not come here.”
Thompson hospitalized while awaiting results
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Thompson was symptomatic and hospitalized on March 19 while he waited for testing results.
Three days later Thompson confirmed he’d contracted the virus, one of a half dozen state lawmakers to do so last week.
In a Facebook post on March 22, Thompson noted having flu-like symptoms for a week and a half.
“When the symptoms first started, I left the capitol immediately, reached out to my doctor, and went home to self-quarantine,” he wrote. “Because of my symptoms, I skipped the legislative special session and remained away from the public.”
Thompson said on Facebook that he planned to stay home.
“While I am feeling much better, I plan to remain at home in self-quarantine for the immediate future.”
This is a breaking story. Stay tuned to this story for updates. Contact Karl Etters at email@example.com or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.